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Huge Everett garage sale builds community

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Last summer, I surprised my son with brand new Rollerblades. I picked up sunny yellow plates and bowls that we now use for breakfast. I saw old friends and met new neighbors.
When I set out on foot for the first Mother of All Garage Sales in Everett's Northwest Neighborhood last August, I knew I'd find treasures. I hadn't expected so much fun. It wasn't a block party, but block after block it seemed more a celebration than a sale. People were out buying, but they were also catching up on each other's news.
Again Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Northwest Neighborhood Association is sponsoring the big sale, which this year will include at least 118 households. Sale maps will be available at Northwest Park at Hoyt Avenue and 12th Street, and are also on the association's website.
Paul Donovan, chairman of the neighborhood association, said that as many as 135 families may be hosting sales, but that 118 had paid a $25 registration fee to get a yard sign advertising the event and to be included on the map.
"The idea for the sale was to build community, and hopefully have it become an institution, something we do every year," Donovan said. He hopes to see the event get larger, and eventually become a major draw like community sales in Mill Creek and Mukilteo. Ideally, other Everett neighborhoods would join in, said Donovan, who estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 people came to last year's Mother of All Garage Sales.
Mary Ann Heine is executive administrator of the Mill Creek Community Association, the group that started the Mill Creek Neighborhood Garage Sale about 30 years ago. Back then, when Mill Creek was a new development, the idea was a gentle push to put cars in their place.
"We don't have rules that people have to park in their garage, but we want them to," Heine said. "People are more likely to park in their garages if they clean their garages."
Mill Creek's sales are held twice a year, the first Saturdays in May and October. Heine said about 2,600 households participated in the last sale. Organizations also gather items to sell for charity. The Mill Creek Women's Club, Heine said, raised about $70,000 one recent year for YWCA Pathways for Women, an effort to help women become self-sufficient.
"Many communities around here pick a weekend for an annual sale, it's a pretty widespread practice these days," said Heine. "I don't know if we were the first, but we're one of the largest. We get calls from Alaska and from Oregon. You can find anything you want at these sales -- artwork and baby clothes." Heine said she once bought a cuckoo clock that worked perfectly, and another time an expensive burl wood table -- for $35.
The Mukilteo Garage Sale, held annually, was April 24 this year, just in time for spring cleaning.
Donovan said Everett's Northwest Neighborhood group picked early August because rain is unlikely. "Historically, that weekend is the driest of the year," he said.
Shoppers who walked the historic Northwest Neighborhood for last year's sale can expect improvements this year. A Girl Scout troop will sell refreshments in the Northwest Park, where there will also be portable toilets.
Sellers will be able to donate leftovers to St. Vincent de Paul or to the Salvation Army. Both organizations will pick up unsold items after 4 p.m. Saturday, Donovan said.
I should be selling stuff, not buying. It seems I have issues with sentiment. All those baby shoes and things; I have trouble parting with anything that conjures good memories. Someday, maybe, I really will hold the mother of all garage sales. Not this week. I do wish all my neighbors good luck shopping and selling.
"It's a terrific neighborhood for walking, a very fun setting," Donovan said. "We heard a number of stories last year. People ended up selling stuff that a week before they had on a corner marked 'Free.' They ended up putting a price on it and selling it.
"With a crowd of people, they get in a buying mood," he said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.
Garage sale
The second annual Mother of All Garage Sales is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in Everett's Northwest neighborhood. More than 100 households are participating in the sale sponsored by the Northwest Neighborhood Association. Maps will be available at Northwest Park, 1221 Hoyt Ave., and are also online at http://northwest everett.org/
Story tags » EverettMill Creek

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